Last Orders – The Book
Won the 1996 Booker Prize. Left, is the cover of my much-thumbed paperback bought in 1996. See the current cover below. Why is this book so special? The characters are so real, the situation so real. We are used to reading great American novels about family. Well this is a great British novel about family and friends, their lives, the inter-connections, the squabbles and the love. And it takes place over the course of one day.
Brief summary: butcher Jack Dodds has died and he requested his ashes be scattered at Margate. So his three best friends and his son drive to the Kent seaside town and along the way we see Jack’s life story, his war service, hop picking and meeting Amy, and finally struggling with the finances of his butcher’s shop.
From the first line, the voice of Jack’s friend, Ray, is so clear:
“It ain’t your regular sort of day.
Bernie pulls me a pint and puts it in front of me. He looks at me, puzzled, with the loose, doggy face but he can tell I don’t want to chit-chat. That’s why I’m here, five minutes after opening, for a little silent pow-wow with a pint glass. He can see the black tie, though it’s four days since the funeral. I hand him a fiver and he takes it to the till and brings back my change. He puts the coins, extra gently, eyeing me, on the bar beside my pint.”
Last Orders – The Film
It is quite rare for a film to shine as brightly as the book, but for me the 2001 film does so. Perhaps because the screenplay was written by Graham Swift [below] with director Fred Schepisi. The cast is a line-up of British character actors: Jack Dodds [Michael Caine] and his wife Amy [Helen Mirren]. Jack’s friends Vic [Tom Courtenay], Lenny [David Hemmings] and Ray [Bob Hoskins]; and his son Vince [Ray Winstone].
To watch the film trailer, click here.
For a review of Graham Swift’s latest short story collection, England and Other Stories, by The Guardian, click here.
‘Last Orders’ by Graham Swift [UK: Picador]
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Film/book: LAST ORDERS by Graham Swift #books & #film via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1z6